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Planting by the Signs
by John Harmon
March 30, 2003

No it's not about crop circles in cornfields or Burma Shave ads along the highway. It's about planting and many other activities around the farm and garden based on the phase of the moon and the alignment of the stars. The next full moon is on April 16th and is considered the best time to plant many crops if you plant by the moon.

Each monthly cycle of the moon is broken into four quarters. The new moon is often called "the dark of the moon". Not to be confused with "the dark side of the moon" sung by a famous rock group. Next a crescent of the moon appears and signals it is on the increase or "waxing" incrementally larger each night until it is half full. I wonder if that has anything to do with why crescent moons appear on outhouses? That is the end of the first quarter. From then up to the full moon it is in the second quarter. The third quarter is when the moon starts to get smaller or "wanes" and that takes you around to when the moon can't be seen or the "new moon" again.

These cycles of the moon are considered very important to many farmers and gardeners that do their planting by the moon. The rule is that planting should only be done when the moon is waxing. The best time is when the moon is full. The full moon is supposed to bring more growth energy to seed germination. It's said that the same forces of the moon that pull on the oceans and cause the tide changes can influence all water on the planet, even the tiny bit of moisture in a seed! After the full moon you can still plant but the choices are limited to crops that produce under the ground like radishes, potatoes or carrots.

The fourth quarter is not considered a good time to plant anything. This is considered to be the time to destroy. It's supposed to be the best time to kill weeds by pulling or plowing. This is also the best time to cut fence posts and firewood. It's believed that fence posts or firewood cut during other phases of the moon will rot before they dry.

The Old Farmer's Almanac is still considered the "last word" to many farmers and gardeners across North America when it comes to planting by the signs. According to their website "Since 1792, The Old Farmer's Almanac has published useful information for people in all walks of life. It has tide tables for those who live near the ocean, sunrise and sunset tables, planting charts for those who live on the farm and recipes for those who live in the kitchen". I've never met anyone who actually lived in a kitchen but I do spend a considerable amount of my time there. It has weather forecasts for those who don't like the question of weather left up in the air and they claim to be over 80% accurate!

The Old Farmer's Almanac is North America's oldest continuously published periodical. It comes out every year in September. The latest edition has changed little in the past century and is still filled with the information considered essential to governing farm tasks. They also sell a great little soft cover book of 144 pages called "The Old Farmer's Almanac 2003 Early Spring Gardener's Companion". Inside you'll find "all the helpful hints and commonsense advice you need to get ready to garden". It's just $3.99 US. Order it on their website.

The very first editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac was Robert B. Thomas, the premier issue of The Old Farmer's Almanac was published in 1792 during George Washington's second term as president. Although many other almanacs were being published at that time, Thomas's upstart almanac became an immediate success. In fact, by the second year, circulation had tripled from 3,000 to 9,000. Back then the Almanac cost only six pence (about nine cents). Today it will cost you $4.99 US. Thomas's last edition was published in 1846, the year he died at the age of 80, supposedly reading page proofs for the 1847 edition. The Old Farmer's Almanac has never missed an issue through all these years!

The Old Farmer's Almanac also contains information on using a more complex method for planting called moon sign. On any given day the moon is linked to a particular zodiacal sign such as Virgo or Cancer. There were all sorts of farmer superstitions about certain moon sign days and the things you should or should not do on that day. At the Old Farmer's Almanac Web site, you can see how days are assigned to planting certain crops based on these moon phase/sign data. Check it out at

Besides The Old Farmer's Almanac there is another great source for information on the web about planting by the signs at

No matter what method you use to determine when to plant it's hard to ignore the many thousands of people who believe that the only way to plant is by the signs.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail

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